Seeking ontological security in the Horn of Africa : biographical narratives and imagining peace in Ethiopia’s engagement in Somalia
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In the Horn of Africa prevailing ideas of the state continue to be heavily contested both within and across formal borders. This thesis explores how the post-1991 Ethiopian government has given meaning to the Ethiopian state as an international actor, and how the state identity narratives with which it does so have shaped its entanglement with the state (re)construction process in Somalia. It contributes to the literature on international politics in the Horn of Africa by drawing attention to the role that state identity narratives play in assessing threats to the state and creating horizons and boundaries of engagement. The thesis builds on an analytical framework that combines a focus on biographical narratives with an ontological security perspective to readdress the identity/foreign policy nexus as a field of enquiry in International Relations. It foregrounds self-identification narratives rather than the mechanism of othering, and captures the sustained political efforts that have gone into maintaining and adapting biographical narratives to establish a sense of ontological security for Ethiopia as a distinct polity and international actor. Based on a discourse analysis of Ethiopian government representations over the period 1995 to 2016, this thesis argues that the government’s dominant biographical narrative has created existential boundaries of the state that necessitate an active engagement in the Horn of Africa, and has shaped how it has perceived threats to, and has sought security for, the Ethiopian state in relation to political developments in Somalia. The thesis concludes that while the Ethiopian government has been able to maintain a stable link between its identification of Ethiopia as a regional force for peace and its engagement in Somalia, it has been unable to resolve deeper tensions resulting from the way it imagines Somalia as a future state, because to do so would undermine its own foundational narratives.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: 2024-3-11
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Print copy restricted until 11th March 2022. Electronic copy restricted until 11th March 2024
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